Take Your Family to Work Day On The Beach? The Surprising New Boom in Blended Travel and the Start of a Long-Term Change
The Bleisure market is expected to reach $497.5 billion in 2022, growing at an impressive 19.5% CAGR
Picture this - You’ve just woken up and find yourself watching the stream steadily rise from your waiting coffee mug as you stand perched at the kitchen counter, taking in the view that stretches beyond the window. The sky is a visually intoxicating blend of warm hues, pink, orange, and purple, set against a sprawling, tropical landscape that is currently humming to life. Just down the street from your quaint abode waits the ocean, and the sound of waves breaking on the shore has become a luxury you can’t believe you once lived without. A familiar ping snaps you out of your trance, and your eyes lock onto your laptop and then over to the clock. If you play your cards right, you can answer a few emails, head down to the beach for a 7 AM surf, and then be back at your desk in time for your 9 AM team meeting.
This is the life you’ve become accustomed to, although it feels impossible to take these circumstances for granted. Needing not much more than a computer and a reliable Wifi signal, you’ve brought your work with you abroad, replacing the noise of the city with the noise of the ocean. Here, you split your time between work and play, relishing in the eternal summer offered by the Yucatán Peninsula while exploring its local culture at every opportunity.
It’s hard not to become transfixed by the scenario described above. Many of us, at one time or another, have dreamt of a life that offered more opportunities for adventure and travel. More often than not, however, life gets in the way, largely due to corporate world demands, as our jobs have traditionally kept us stationed at local offices or centers. That is, until March of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it, and even as we put those experiences (and many challenges) behind us, certain aspects of life remain changed. As stay-at-home orders were issued around the world, companies across all industries had to suddenly pivot to a work-from-home model. Whether they had ever planned to adopt remote work or not, employers had to determine the best way to keep their staff connected, productive, and supported from beyond the borders of a company office. And as it turns out, many employees (and many brands) realized that this model not only worked but helped to reduce corporate real estate costs and increase employee satisfaction. With this in mind, as we set our sights on the clean slate that is 2023, one thing has become increasingly clear: remote and hybrid work models are here to stay, and bleisure travel is booming because of it.
Bleisure Travel: Rebranded
In a recent article published to Travel Weekly, author Jamie Biesiada describes the recent evolution of bleisure travel; specifically, Biesiada identifies how the age-old hospitality segment has changed in both name and format since the pandemic. “Today, many use the term “blended travel” to describe bleisure, which is no longer just a bit of pre- or post-work fun: some business travelers want even more flexibility,” Biesiada writes. “Many companies now cater to the growing crowd of workers who want to be constantly on the move, be able to work from a destination remotely for a few extra weeks and just have the opportunity to work from anywhere.” If bleisure travel was a staple of the pre-pandemic era, blended travel is expected to be the buzzword of the next era.
Chargebee, an India-founded subscription-management company that used to have offices in San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Chennai, is a great example of this culture shift. Since the pandemic, the company has adopted a fully remote working model, which not only gives its employees the freedom to manage their time and workload but also frees them from traditional corporate tethers. With no need to report into an office, Chargebee employees can now work from anywhere, finding ways to mix work, play, and travel that once seemed out of the question.
To this effect, 2021 Morning Consult data revealed that in-person work has permanently changed, with around four in 10 employed adults now planning to travel more frequently and at different times of the day, week, and year than pre-pandemic due to flexible work schedules. In their recent Q2 earnings calls, both Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide highlighted bleisure as a “trend to watch.” Marriott CEO Tony Capuano pointed to the fact that occupancy for “shoulder nights” of Thursday and Sunday has neared 2019 levels as proof travelers “are continuing to combine leisure and business trips.” Moreover, according to a report by Future Market Insights, the bleisure tourism market is expected to reach a valuation of $ 497.5 billion in 2022, with sales growing at an impressive 19.5% CAGR over the assessment period.
American Airlines CCO reiterated this sentiment in a recent statement, noting that the airline’s executives “no longer” think the blended-passenger trend is “spurious” but rather “the start of a long-term change in passenger makeup.” In fact, pre-pandemic, about 20-25% of American’s passengers were on “blended” trips, but that number has jumped significantly from 50% to 55%. Finally, a Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card Survey revealed that 78% of millennials intentionally carved out personal time on a business trip, and 60% of millennials said that vacation time benefits their business by helping them think of the big picture.
Blurred Lines, Big Revenue Potential
It’s important to recognize that blended travel will take on many forms. Some employees, especially millennials, may opt for a longer duration trip if working abroad suits their career. Others may simply vacation for two weeks instead of one and plan to work from the road part of the time. On the other hand, some traveling professionals may choose to simply add on a few days at either end of their trip. As post-pandemic inflation continues to rise in lockstep with the cost of goods, services, and experiences (such as air travel), many individuals will seek out ways to maximize their travel plans for both business and pleasure. Now, more than ever, travelers want to make up for lost time while blurring the lines between work and play.
To capitalize on this trend, hotel brands must consider the offerings and amenities which matter most to guests working away from home. The Morning Consult data revealed that for younger travelers (ages 18 to 34), Wi-Fi still ranks at the top but is less of a differentiator. “Instead, this group is more likely to want tech-forward offers like self check-in and checkout, equipment to facilitate meetings, and lifestyle amenities like workout facilities and laundry — in other words, services that help recreate their usual work and home environments,” the report reads. “For those ages 35 to 44, a dedicated workspace stands out as a unique driver, likely because members of this group are most likely to be taking blended trips with children in tow. As for the oldest blended travelers, proximity to both business and leisure activities rises in importance.”
For hotels still debating the modernization of their tech stack, the blended travel trend may represent a catalyst to meaningful evolution. With new-age technology, hotels will benefit from increased automation and streamlined, self-service touch-points and can also expect to attract a new travel segment. These properties should look to curate experiences and amenities that not only prioritize entrepreneurial connection and convenience but health, wellness, adventure, and local experiences/cultural discovery. The best part? American Airlines says blended trips are often booked at the last minute and carry a higher fare. The airline also saves on marketing expenses and has found that people making such excursions tend to fork over the cash for a better level of service.
The writing is on the wall – blended travel is likely to become the next big trend in hospitality, and it's one that hospitality brands can’t afford to ignore.
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Head of Content, Puzzle Partner
Puzzle Partner Ltd.